The world has lost a true icon. The Queen of Soul has passed away of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit at the age of 76. The voice and the influence of Aretha Franklin are unequaled. Long live the Queen.
Biff Bam Pop staff and contributors share their thoughts.
When I was growing up, I don’t think there was anyone in my immediate family who was not a fan of Aretha. During my teenage rebellion with a penchant for punk rock, I offhandedly dismissed much of the music my mother loved, only to recognize much later the sounds and live concert opportunities I had missed. Aretha Franklin was never in that category. Her greatness cut through the divides of age and culture; her voice sang directly to my heart. Over time, I came to appreciate how much her songs drove and defined the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement, and how much they continue to inspire our best.
The band Spy Gods is my favorite musical project I’ve ever been part of. One of our most requested songs was the Otis Redding tune that was Aretha’s signature. Thankfully, the alternative rock/soul dissonance of our version of “Respect” didn’t require my voice to even attempt to come close to matching hers. I am blessed to have heard Aretha Franklin sing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. There are no words for the power embodied in that moment.
Farewell, Aretha. Your talent beyond imagination will never leave us.
Before I grew up and discovered the classic Aretha albums like her seminal Live at Fillmore West and those amazing late 1960s Atlantic albums, I knew Aretha from her 80s pop hits. And they were and still are good songs: “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”, and my favourite, “I Knew You Were Waiting” with George Michael. The world called her the Queen of Soul, and it remained and remains true. I saw Aretha live once, at the gorgeous Fallsview Casino. Her voice was as powerful as ever. It goes without saying, we won’t forget her.
Aretha Franklin was only a few years older than me when she passed away this morning. She was one of us! Aretha belonged to the millions of baby boomers who grew up dancing to her music. Aretha was the Queen of Soul, and it was her music I danced to while watching American Bandstand. It was her music my friends and I danced to every Saturday night at Saint John Neumann’s High School in South Philly. It was her music that we girls and our dates danced the “grind” to whenever the priest, who chaperoned the school dance, had his back turned to us.
Aretha was the daughter of a preacher, and it must have been the gospel singing that she did in her father’s church, which made her voice so powerful. I’m not sure exactly when they began calling Aretha the Queen of Soul, all I know is that her music transported me to a higher conscious level as I swayed back and forth in front of our old television set during the 60s. American Bandstand was the catalyst that introduced me to many talented black performers and their music that I wouldn’t normally have learned about in my predominantly white neighborhood.
Aretha’s song “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” become the battle cry for the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement. Aretha went from the Queen of Soul to Queen of American Culture when she sang for President Obama at his inauguration. I will never forget her performance.
Aretha was only a few years older than me, but her death after a long battle with cancer… has reminded me that our lives on this planet are short indeed. Aretha proved with her music and her life that although we may be a mere speck in the history of time, our creations will last forever. GOD bless you, Aretha. Heaven is blessed to hear your singing for all of eternity.
One Reply to “Biff Bam Pop! Remembers the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin”
One of the most important recordings in my life is Aretha’s version of “Dr. Feelgood” from the Live at Fillmore West album. It is stunning. It’s a religious experience.
The song is about a woman who just wants her girl friends to go away for a while so she can get down to business with her lover. And in most versions, it’s an intense song. But on that night, with possibly the funkiest, most soulful band she ever recorded with (and that includes the Muscle Shoals rhythm section), she tore it up. She shrieked. She hollered. She preached. She was the picture of ecstasy. For a woman so religious in her faith, she was downright dirty.
To me, it’s a little sad that she’s thought of as a diva, a pop culture figure, the generator of soul hits. On that night, she rose above all that…tawdriness and became pure soul, and everyone should hear that track.